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CSUSM expands student food pantry

SAN MARCOS — To support students experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic, the ASI Cougar Pantry at Cal State San Marcos has moved into a larger space that will enable it to offer expanded services. 

Associated Students, Inc., which operates the pantry, held a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new space Nov. 18 in the University Commons building on campus.  

At 1,200 square feet, the new ASI Cougar Pantry is six times as big as the previous version, which was located in the University Student Union. The additional space will allow the pantry to serve extra food items as well as menstruation products, hygiene products, diapers and school supplies. 

“If students are worried about meeting their basic needs, then they most likely will not be able to focus on their studies and complete their path to graduation,” said Alondra Gutierrez, ASI Cougar Pantry coordinator. “We are here to help ease those concerns and support their holistic wellness so they can focus on just being a student and a human.”  

The ASI Cougar Pantry offers a variety of food options, both nonperishable and refrigerated. The food is supplied by community partners like the San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego, and the pantry also receives donations from local grocery stores such as Albertsons, Ralphs and Sprouts.  

Shoppers must be currently enrolled CSUSM students and can visit the space once a week. The pantry serves an average of 250 to 300 students per week. It’s run by a team of more than a dozen professional staff, students and interns. 

Funding for the expanded ASI Cougar Pantry came via a grant from the California State University Basic Needs Initiative as well as ASI reserve funds.  

Founded in 2017, the ASI Cougar Pantry grew out of a campus survey that revealed that more than half of CSUSM students are affected by food insecurity. That 2016 finding was more than double the percentage of students affected by food insecurity across the 23-campus CSU system.